This weekend Grown Ups 2 comes out. It is tracking well, and it is expected to beat Pacific Rim at the box office. Grown Ups 2 is a lousy follow-up to a mediocre film.
If Pacific Rim flops at the box office, I will renounce my United States citizenship and live in the wilds of Canada trapping wolverines for a living and using whale oil to heat my cabin.
This is supposed to be a movie that you take kids to. Thankfully kids in this generation have been exposed to more technology and movie effects than we ever were, because if I had seen this movie when I was a kid, I would died on the spot, and when they did my autopsy and cut me open, there would have been a blinding light that filled the room, and the coroner would have choked back tears and said to no one in particular, ‘This child died of joy. He died of Joy!’
I’ll let you in on a secret, that’s not really a secret. Most summer movies are really bad, and cost too much for the wrong reasons.
A few years ago visually incoherent camera work was in vogue, along with super quick editing, making it pretty much impossible to figure what exactly was happening or where anything was in any action scene. Summer movies are full of lousy vanity projects (only one man can save us from _____), movies that spent too much because they didn’t actually finish the script before they started shooting, movies that were rushed into development, compromising the quality, directors that have no idea how to shoot computer effects and make them look convincing and dozens of other issues.
Sometimes audiences give up. They know Transformers or Fast and Furious 205 are terrible films but they go see them anyway because that’s what you do in the summer. You go to the movies. But sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes no matter how you pitch a stinker, you can’t get anyone to buy into The Lone Ranger, or Battleship.
So what I’m saying is…make this the time you get it right.
This isn’t a sequel, or a remake, or an idea from a cellphone app, board game or video game. It’s a bunch of original ideas that are pretty well executed. This is an attempt to make a great summer movie, and its getting submarined by the people that are supposed to be putting it out.
Two weeks out from its release, 70% of Pacific Rim’s marketing budget hadn’t been spent yet, which means that no one has explained to the average person why they should see a $200 million dollar film starring no one you’re heard of. The tagline is terrible, the trailers are underwhelming, and every time I bring it up, everyone asks me what I’m talking about.
It’s going to need word of mouth. It’s going to need you. Or else, Hollywood is going to assume that you just want more crap, and they’re going to give it to you.
It helps that the Director is Guillermo del Toro, who is on a roughly twenty year hot streak of making movies that are far better than they should be, for far less than they could be.
You may have missed his debut in Chronos, where the love between a grandfather and his grandson is tested by a very rich, very desperate old man, and a small piece of jewelry with a nasty bite. You may have underestimated Mimic for its B-movie trappings, missing a surprisingly fun ride and some of Rob Bottin’s last great work. The Hellboy franchise never got the credit it should have. But Blade II is a radical improvement over its predecessor, The Devil’s Backbone is a very strong film, and Pan’s Labyrinth is a masterpiece that won 3 Oscars.
In between, he worked with Peter Jackson on the Hobbit trilogy, collaborated on a handful of flawed gems, (Splice, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Kung Fu Panda 2 (!) Puss in Boots (!), Mama, and most notably, the Orphanage). The man knows what he’s doing.
Okay, so back to Pacific Rim.
It’s about the near future, where nations have to band together because they are being attacked by Kaiju, giant monsters from the deep. They make giant robots called Jaegers (are their pilots called JaegerMeisters?) to fight them. The Jaegers are controlled by pilots that sit in the head and control one half of the robots like giant puppets, but the robots are plugged into their nervous system, so it takes quite a toll.
Also, because there are two pilots and two brains, they have to share each others thoughts, which creates quite a bond. Also, damage to the pilot damages the robot, and sometimes vice versa. There are great concepts here, but they don’t get explored in the most interesting way, because instead Pacific Rim focuses on a half-hearted love story and some other action movie tropes.
Also it gets really talky in the middle, and it cares about its characters a lot more than I did. But in the end, it’s about giant monsters coming out of the ocean and getting punched by giant robots. Despite its flaws, its does enough to make me care about the characters and the situation they’re in, which means that the fights generate actual tension.
And the fights…man. These are probably the most impressive action scenes ever filmed. The fights in the movie reduced me to a pool of jelly. I felt like a kid again. Even describing a scene in this movie to someone else is going to make you sound like a two year old. Every weakness in this movie becomes completely irrelevant once the helicopters drop a Jaeger into the ocean, because your rational mind shuts down like a first generation X-Box.
Obviously in the pantheon of great action the true film buff goes to Ben Hur, and Indiana Jones and Vanishing Point and so on. After all, we have to distinguish between the Vic Armstongs and Zoe Bells and the computer age.
But as far as straight up film? Nothing has ever looked better.
I just saw Man of Steel. I reviewed it. Thought the action scenes were the best superhero fight scenes ever. It’s not in the same class. I loved Avengers. Not in the same league. Nothing is.
The bar just got raised. For Christ’s sakes, don’t let this film die. Go to the movies. Take your family, even the ones you don’t like. Break your elderly loved ones out of the nursing home and plop them down in the IMAX Theater. (For once they’ll be able to see and hear everything.)
I really don’t want to have to trap wolverines for a living.